On felted wool sculptures and being the patron
For my mother’s birthday this year, I decided to give her some art, but, in a radical twist on this notion, I decided that, for once, I wouldn’t give her my art! Instead, I commissioned Amelia Santiago to create a portrait of Rouzic Argwellan.
This is hardly the first time that Roo has had his portrait done—he is, after all, in a portrait painter’s family. But it is his first time being portrayed in needle felted wool, and he’s very excited about it. We all are! I can’t get over how delightfully silly this portrait is, especially since it is simultaneously so exquisitely beautiful. Truly magical.
Commissioning it was surprisingly emotional for me. Something about being on the other end of a process that plays such a big part in my everyday turned my head a little inside out.
In one of those funny moments of synchronicity, just as I was paying to have a wool sculpture of my favorite dog made, I ran across this work by Elizabeth Knight at PDX Contemporary.
Knight’s April show at the gallery had more than just sculptures like this one, and I quite liked some of that other work, but the felted wool stuff seemed a little flat to me. It’s possible that Knight hasn’t been working in this medium as long as Santiago or maybe she simply doesn’t have the aptitude that Santiago does, but I suspect that there’s something else at play.
Portraiture pushes an artist. It requires a finished work to not simply represent a human or other creature in general, but to evoke something more specific about a particular person or puppy. And the extra discipline required for a portrait tends to make for better art.
And I promise I’m not just saying that because I happen to adore the subject of Santiago’s piece!